ICYMI: 2020 Saw a Scary Increase in U.S. Drug Overdoses. We Must Take National Action to Help Communities at Risk
 By Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dianne Feinstein of California
The rate of drug overdoses in the U.S. accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening an existing public health crisis, and the numbers are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, the most ever in a single year, and up nearly 30% from the 72,000 deaths in 2019.
As bad as these death rates are, they will likely continue to rise without immediate intervention by the president and Congress.
The president should develop a coordinated national strategy grounded in evidence-based policies and nimble enough to address emerging problems as they arise. The overdose crisis is constantly shifting, and our response should take that into account.
The president and Congress must also continue pressuring China and Mexico to crack down on the manufacturing of illicit drugs, including fentanyl, which is increasingly being mixed with other substances found in the U.S., such as heroin and cocaine. The Drug Enforcement Agency has identified these two nations as closely linked to fentanyl production.
…In 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an emergency order banning fentanyl-related substances—essentially knock-off fentanyl and fentanyl analogues under federal law on an emergency basis. Because of this, China also made it illegal to produce these drugs within its own borders. Combined, these actions helped to slow the emergence of new fentanyl-related substances in the United States.
In early 2020, Congress passed legislation to extend the DEA’s emergency order for 15 months, and then again extended it in May 2021 for another six months. Congress should work on a long-term solution to make sure fentanyl-related substances remain explicitly illegal.